Wishing Bubbles ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 269

This was a World Mental Health Day with a difference in Waterford today!  The Well Festival of Arts and Wellbeing  is running here all week with a host of different events being organised through a partnership between Garter Lane Arts Centre  and Waterford Healing Arts Trust.  

The Wishing Bubble Project which was the brainchild of artist Brigid Teehan was specially arranged for Mental Health Day because of the extent to which blowing bubbles  is so cathartic  and holds one in the moment.

Brigid Teehan
Brigid Teehan

It’s a while since I blew bubbles, and I certainly never did it as an adult in the middle of Waterford City in front of a crowd of strangers,  but it certainly brought me into a zone of total relaxation!

How did you celebrate World Mental Health Day? I hope it was as happy as mine!

The Garda Band in Waterford ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 59

The Garda Band
The Garda Band

Last Thursday, February 7th,  I experienced one of those  unexpected hauntingly beautiful evenings that I suspect will stay in my memory forever.

It was designated ‘A Charity Concert’ in aid of the South Eastern Cancer Foundation ~ Solas Centre, a cause dear to my heart.


So, what was so different about this event?  Well, I went with little expectation ~ in fact, I hadn’t really had time to think about where I was going and suddenly found myself in the Sacred Heart Church on the Folly in Waterford soaking in a musical feast as well as an atmosphere that touched chords in me that I never even knew existed.

On reflection, and I’ve needed to reflect on this, I think that the evening was so special because it really highlighted the power of music in transcending the harsh reality of cancer and difficult aspects of life that so often lie undiscussed.

The Gardai and the people of  Ireland are still trying to come to terms with the recent loss in an awful shooting of Garda Adrian Donohue on January 26th.  Before the concert started there was a poignant minute’s silence in memory of this man and in sympathy with his wife and young family.

The Garda Band, which has been in existence since 1922 with some breaks in between, has a magnetism that I just didn’t expect. Here was a whole other side of the Gardai, playing music, singing, entertaining. There was one really special moment when a lady sitting in front of me rose from her seat and stepped out spontaneously to dance with the Musical Director, Pat Kenny. And could she waltz and jive!

Waterford’s musical talent was also on show on Thursday night with the exquisite  Waterford Peace Choir and Ad Hoc Choirs as well as two young groups from De La Salle College . The De La Salle Duo of Sean Birney and Robin Healy had me thinking of budding Simon and Garfunkel and The De La Salle Trio of Dylan Browne, Ben Jacob and Alex McKenna shone through with young jazz talent, energy and enthusiasm that was almost unbelievable.

I doubt that there were many people in the audience whose lives haven’t been touched in some way by cancer but this was a night on which life, living and  mutual support were centre stage.

IMAGINE Arts Festival 2012 Waterford


It’s hard to believe but the IMAGINE Arts Festival  in Waterford is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year as it runs from October 19th- 29th.  So many memories! But, the magic of IMAGINE  really hit home last night as I was standing on the Quay in Waterford having just emerged from a showing of the French film, The Well Digger’s Daughter,  at Greyfriars Church.

I fell into step with a slightly older man who had been at the film too and there we were talking about Jean de Florette, Monet, Impressionism, art exhibitions, John McKenna’s stunning reading of poetry and prose last Sunday;  watercolours; photography, orchestras, history,  The Theatre Royal …..

There wasn’t much traffic on the Quay but we were both so aware of being in Waterford, our place, with the River Suir flowing by as it has for thousands upon thousands of years and Reginald’s Tower soaking in every word we said. Just think how much that Tower has heard!

Reginald’s Tower, Waterford.

Although this man was a stranger to me, he felt like a friend ~someone who shares my love of ‘ The Arts.’  He may not be into poetry,  nor me into opera,  but we had so much in common. We were already talking about upcoming events. He stunned me by saying that no matter how many Festival Programmes he had picked up, he still hasn’t got one with him. I thought that  was just me!  So for everyone who is in the same boat, here is a link to the Festival’s site and programme! http://www.imagineartsfestival.com/

The range of events is absolutely amazing. This is a festival that lives up to its name ‘Imagine.’  It’s like the the Festival Committee went into imagination-land and came up with events that would have the widest appeal possible. I just love that sense of freedom, creativity and inspiration. There is such a mixture of genres to fire the imagination and after talking my ‘new’ friend on the Quay last night, I feel a real urge coming on to take out some watercolours ~ and try and capture boats on a river and go to hear an orchestra play.

The great thing is that there are still 6 days and nights  left of this years’s Imagine Festival and I have both an online and a hard-copy of the programme! So, I know I’ll be whizzing in and out to Waterford. I hope I see you there and I hope I meet that smiling man from last night too who, no doubt, is still haunted by the delicious scenery we both loved in The Well Digger’s Daughter. 

Solas South-East Run for Life 2012 ~ A Vibrant Social Bridge

Today is a huge day in Waterford, Ireland and one that will see thousands of people participate in the South East Run for Life 2012 which is aimed at raising funds for the Solas Centre  which works with utter dedication to support people affected by cancer, their families and carers here in the South-East. http://solascentre.ie/.

The run ~ for some of us a long walk ~  takes a ten mile route starting at the historic Quay in Waterford City. There the thousands will gather and take off at noon with a surge of collective life that  is one of those extraordinary community experiences.

Everyone has a reason for being there ~ most because they have been touched in some way by cancer.  Stories are shared along the way; stangers talk to strangers. Yes, there are  hills to climb on this journey but somehow they dissolve because they are being shared.

This is what Solas is all about ~ making the most out of life, sharing the joys and sorrows. It is a major social bridge and the thousands today will be adding even more life to it.

I wonder how the other few thousand participants are feeling right now and what are they doing?  I suspect every single one of them has by now peeped out through their curtains and smiled to see the blue sky and dazzling sun. Waterford will be heaving in two hours time. I just  hope someone hangs on in the People’s Park for the stragglers late into the afternoon. I’ve no doubt they will!

Waterfords of the World: The Journey Begins

The idea of building connections between all the Waterfords of the World has been on my mind for a number of months now. However, the idea truly came alive last Sunday when I had the opportunity of meeting with The First Selectman of Waterford, Connecticut, Mr. Daniel Steward to discuss it.   In Section 5 of Social Bridges,  I describe this meeting which took place as I had the honour of driving him through Waterford City and out along the Copper Coast to lovely Stradbally.